When to give up on a prospect.

I got into a discussion last week about Brett Wallace. I argued it might have been smarter for the Cardinals to stick Wallace in LF and lock up Pujols long-term, arguing that the difference between Wallace and Matt Holliday was negligible when considering the years of talent that would come through the farm system.  St. Louis has also had a good track record in drafting in recent years, so they got that going for them.

The counter was that Wallace hasn’t shown any power in the minors.  Sure, he’s 22 (going to be 23) and he’s got the average and a bit of the OBP, but there’s still no history of power.

I don’t know when to give up on a prospect.  I don’t think you ever should.  The best possible outcome is for every player in every minor league system to reach his maximum potential. I still believe Wallace will find his power swing; that Rickie Weeks will figure it out; that Ubaldo Jimenez will master control and dominate the entire National League.  Maybe it’s naive considering the attrition rate for AAA => Majors transitions (Dallas McPherson, where for art thou), but I’d rather be naive than cynical.

Edit: I understand now after waking up this morning and reading this post (huh, I wrote this?) that I didn’t fully explain.

There are times when a TEAM should give up on a prospect, but for us fans, developing in baseball is a very difficult thing.  There will almost always be something wrong with a prospect–doesn’t walk enough, doesn’t hit for power, doesn’t do this, doesn’t do that.  The ones that get it immediately–your Jason Heywards, your Stephen Strasburgs–are rare and it’s best to look on the bright side (as a fan, remember) instead of discounting a player because of a fault.

Obviously, not all prospects work out.  But a player’s ceiling is a constant and can be achieved. Whether the player achieves–or wants to achieve it–it is a different thing.

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